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UNL Prof: Noem’s Varmint-Trapping Won’t Boost Pheasants

Kristi Noem and the rest of the South Dakota Republican Party rail against out-of-state influence in our politics largely because their one-party regime can’t intimidate out-of-staters into silence over bad South Dakota Republican policy.

Consider Larkin Powell, Professor of Animal Ecology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Since he doesn’t have to answer to South Dakota’s Republican-appointed Board of Regents or fret about the South Dakota Legislature cutting his budget or imposing absurd ideological tests on his continued employment, Dr. Powell doesn’t hesitate to explain the plain truth about South Dakota’s just-ended Nest Predator Bounty program—it won’t boost the pheasant population:

Powel explains that hens have only a 10 to 30 percent chance of pulling off a successful nest.

“What you would predict to be fairly localized efforts by a few trappers around the state, they’re really not going to put a dent in the population of predators,” Powell says.

Powell says the tried and true method is habitat management. He says grass and wildflowers bring insects that hens can feed on. Powell’s research focused on conservation reserve acres in north eastern Nebraska, which tripled the regions pheasant production [Lee Strubinger, “As Bounty Program Ends, Questions Linger About Effectiveness,” SDPB  Radio, 2019.08.12].

Governor Noem tells Strubinger that her pheasant plan is also creating 4,000 acres of new habitat, and she continues to dispatch her Game Fish and Parks officials to say that the “original intent” of offering ten-dollar bounties for varmint tails was to “get families outdoors” and “bring[…] back that trapping heritage.” (The latter is complete bunk: In her State of the State Address, Governor Noem spoke of the need to get aggressive on predator control with a bounty program” primarily as a way to “reduce the threats to our pheasant population” while saying nothing about any “trapping heritage.”) But she offers no rebuttal against Professor Larkin’s plain science, because she can’t. Even if South Dakota’s public university professors dared speak up against her programs, Governor Noem would ignore their scientific advice, too.


  1. mike from iowa 2019-08-15

    Maybe South Dakota and the failing NRA should consider arming all pheasants. That oughta do it.

  2. Buckobear 2019-08-15

    Face it SD. Our governator is cluelesss.

  3. jerry 2019-08-15

    Recession trump/GNOem is coming round the mountain, should be one term for each of these fascists.

  4. TAG 2019-08-15

    I think the biggest issue is not Noem’s intelligence, or lack thereof, but the source of her information. Governors can’t be experts at everything, but simply allowing lobbyists and well-funded special interest groups to dictate policy is both corrupt and irresponsible.

  5. Debbo 2019-08-15

    This is such a stupid plan, and then trying to pretend it really wasn’t the stupid plan it was …… 🙄

  6. Leticia Gilmore 2019-08-16

    Thank you for bringing stories to highlight what a ridiculous program this was. This is the new way in politics, politicians make corrupt and irresponsible policies and then blame others and obfuscate away the consequences of such actions. It is disturbing and they seemingly have no culpability. This is why I thank you again for keeping stories such as this one and many others, alive for people to consider.

  7. JW 2019-08-18

    Powell is right of course but it’s a lot more complicated, diverse, and difficult than the simple explanation offered. Most Republican governors and their acolytes need simple because they’ve never been able to grasp complex subject matter and particularly anything ecological. They also need easy and simple answers because they have no stomach or acumen to address difficult problems. Old saying in state government; throw money at a problem and it will go away.

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